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I was excited. I was hopeful. I very much wanted it to be true. But I’m not at all surprised (a bit depressed though) that solar roadways are a bad idea. Three main categories of problems have been illustrated by many.
One is cost. This one is tough as the solar roadway people haven’t been all that forthcoming on how much each panel might be, but estimates based on what little we do know show roadways costing somewhere between 20 and 56 trillion dollars.
Two is solar efficiency. Solar panels are angled to best capture sunlight, the really good ones tilt to follow the sun. Lying flat on the road is just a bad place to collect solar energy. And as everything these roads are supposed to do is based on them collecting massive amounts of solar energy, this is a huge problem.
Three is durability. Rock erodes glass. Rock being ground in by untold tonnes of traffic erode glass fast. Those super expensive modules wouldn’t last too long.
And these are only very brief summations of entire categories of problems that have been pointed out about the roadways.
Now, if the solar roadway people are earnest in their efforts (and I have no reason to suspect they aren’t) they now have over 2 million dollars to get this idea as far as it can possibly go. While that won’t be a fraction of how far they envisioned or how far I had hoped, they should be able to learn something. Whatever they find, doubtless there is an easier and cheaper way we could be learning it, but as is so often the case, we’re doing it the hard way. Salvage what we can and move on.
If nothing else, more people are thinking about roadway improvements, which is a good thing. Someone will look back at this and think, “Boy, that was a horrible idea, the REAL way to improve roads is by…” and they will probably be wrong too. But they will be slightly less wrong. So plods on progress.
Never say we don’t care about your intellectual development here at DWR:
See, you’re more knowledgeable already. You’re welcome. :)
Creationist: *argle-bargle* – “Science said this!”, trots out gross caricature of scientific theory. “It is ‘just a theory!” – More *argle-bargle*.
Rational People: … *heavy sigh*
And then…the slapdown.
You are entitled to your opinion, but never entitled to the facts.
Another reason why we need more science and not less in the world. Where smoking has been accurately depicted as hazardous to your health and society the rate goes down. Other places, not so much.
This is what we get for not changing the system that is killing us – a half-assed, piecemeal romp toward oblivion.
“Richard Smith, in a tour de force paper published in the Real-World Economics Review, “Green capitalism: the god that failed,” summed up the dilemma:
“[T]he problem is not just special interests, lobbyists and corruption. … [Under] capitalism, it is, perversely, in the general interest, in everyone’s immediate interests to do all we can to maximize growth right now, therefore, unavoidably, to maximize fossil fuel consumption right now — because practically every job in the country is, in one way or another, dependent upon fossil fuel consumption. … There is no way to cut CO2 emissions by anything like 80 percent without imposing drastic cuts across the board in industrial production. But since we live under capitalism, not socialism, no one is promising new jobs to all those … whose jobs would be at risk if fossil fuel use were really seriously curtailed. … Given capitalism, they have little choice but to focus on the short-term, to prioritize saving their jobs in the here and now to feed their kids today — and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.” [page 121, March 2011]
“Green” enterprises will not be granted an exemption. They, too, will be pushed by market forces the same as any other enterprise. Dr. Smith writes:
“Biofuels, windpower and organic crops — all might be environmentally rational here or there, but not necessarily in every case or forever. But once investments are sunk, green industries have no choice but to seek to maximize profits and grow forever regardless of social need and scientific rationality, just like any other for-profit business.” [page 142]
All the more is that so for the capitalist system as a whole. Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, in their book What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism, write:
“ ‘Green capitalism,’ even if products are produced using the utmost environmental care and designed for easy reuse, offers no way out of a system that must expand exponentially and thus continue to ratchet up its use of natural resources, its chemical pollution, its contaminated sewage sludge, its garbage, and its many other toxic substances. Some of these ‘fixes’ will probably slow down the rate of environmental destruction, but the magnitude of the needed changes dwarfs these approaches.” [page 120]“
An exciting update on my recent post on solar roadways. Scott and Julie have an Indiegogo campaign (like kickstarter, but not) and they were looking for $1 million to fund production of their solar roadway hexagons. They have made their goal with a few days left and are currently just under $1.3 million. This is happening! And in case my last article didn’t quite express how awesome this all is, check their new vid.
As a bespectacled individual, I was hoping for something a little more high tech. :)
On the upside, it is good to know when you’re in a pinch.